May 21, 2018

Alumni and the Public Speaking Lessons that Stick

Alumni , The Buckley Experience , Just For Fun , 30th Anniversary

"Hundreds of presentations later and on the edge of retirement, I think back to the few truly helpful skill-building classes I’ve taken and The Buckley School stands out as top of a very short list."

– Philip Morris executive Norma Drew

One of the best parts of celebrating our 30th anniversary has been catching up with alumni and hearing their memories.

From our inbox, some of the notes we’ve received in the past few weeks. You'll find tips, some insight into how the school works its magic, and a taste of the enduring bonds that people form while they're here.


Being the servant of your message

Robin Wise, President and CEO of Jr. Achievement-Rocky Mountain, Inc., attended the Executive Seminar in 2007, when our founder Reid Buckley was still active with the school.

Reid’s essential advice to every speaker had to do with ego and purpose: If you were feeling nervous, he’d tell you your big ego was the problem. (That was a shocking revelation for many a shy person, we might add).

When you put your message ahead of your concerns about yourself, Reid said, then you’d be the speaker you were meant to be.

Here’s what Robin writes:

I often tell stories about the class I took at the Buckley School! And, more importantly--I remember (almost) everything I learned. Every time I step onto a podium, I hear Reid’s voice in my ear saying… "Ms. Wise, you must be the servant of your message."

Scenes from our earliest years, as found in one of our Buckley School scrapbooks.

Public Speaking: The personalized approach

Among Reid Buckley’s all-time favorite students was Norma Drew, an executive with Philip Morris International. In the years since she attended, she’s directed many others our way. She dropped us a note that explains why:

What I love about Buckley and why I continue to send so many of my colleagues there over the years is that Buckley takes your strengths and amplifies them while softening your flaws. Other schools try and force you into their methodology whether it works for your style or not. Buckley celebrates the individual, with feedback given in a very digestible manner.

I still remember Reid, striding towards me after my first speech on the podium. He said, "Norma, you are funny. You need to use it." And, I do. Now, hundreds of presentations later and on the edge of retirement, I think back to the few truly helpful skill-building classes I’ve taken and The Buckley School stands out as top of a very short list.

A more recent class, in session, April 2016.

Becoming an influential speaker

One exciting aspect of our work has been helping speakers prepare for and achieve specific goals. Dentist Gary Roberts was one of those people. He joined us for the Executive Seminar in 2015:

I walked into the building that January morning not quite knowing what to expect. I knew I was preparing to run for President Elect of the American Dental Association, and I knew I wasn’t the speaker I needed to be.

Karen and the rest of the faculty took us by the hand and challenged us from the beginning. Every exercise over the three days was tailored to make us comfortable in any situation.

Did I feel confident and totally prepared at the end of the third day? No. But I was given the tools and the background on which to build and refine my speaking skills. I worked on the principles that were taught to us and over the next few months, I began to see results and really started feeling comfortable in front of small and large groups.

Karen later worked with me on my pre-election speech to our governing body of over 1,100 people. With her help and a lot of hard work, we prevailed and we won the election. I truly believe The Buckley School made the difference.

P.S.   We won a 2018 Cicero Award for a Commencement Speech I gave at Texas A&M School of Dentistry last May. Thanks for all your help in accomplishing my goals.

Videographer George Mirabal taking a class photo, December 2017.

Speaking of stories and a sense of humor

Attending the school often leads to lifelong connections with fellow students and our faculty. Many of our students from our first 20 years also formed strong ties with Reid Buckley—and have fond and funny memories of our brilliant but quirky founder.

We’re glad Cynthia Marsteller is one of our alumni with a great sense of humor. She was there when Reid gave a talk sponsored by the University of Richmond in 2001.

These days, she’s the managing director of the Marsteller Bradshaw investment group at Wells Fargo. Here’s what she recalled:

Could tell some funny stories about when Reid spoke at University of Richmond. We had all these corporate sponsors. Tables of Richmond’s finest. He basically gave a speech that opined the world going to hell and the U.S. was leading the way. It was pretty funny, although he was very sincere about it.

I think about him a lot. What a wonderful man. Loved all his stories. Especially about Ava Gardner and Frank Sinatra.

For anyone who knew Reid, it’s not hard to imagine any of the above.

The school's founder, Reid Buckley (center), known for his fashion flair, warm personality, and apparently, his stride.

Veteran speaker on taking challenges in stride

Apparently, Norma Drew isn’t the only one who remembers Reid Buckley’s stride.

Here’s one more recollection, this one from a long-time friend of the school who attended the Executive Seminar in the early 2000s and last attended one of our programs in 2014:

When I first stepped foot into the Buckley School, I had been in professional services for over 20 years and half of that time as a Partner in a global consulting firm. I had plenty of diplomas and certifications; I was athletic, and I was immensely confident. At my firm, continuing education literally has no budget as we constantly endeavor to be leading practice in all that we do for our people and our clients. I enjoyed speaking and considered myself, well, talented in that regard. I had extinguished all of the available opportunities for instruction in public speaking through my firm when I stumbled upon The Buckley School while aboard a Delta flight. I immediately registered for their capstone course.

I was living on the west coast and during the course of my long journey across the country, I began to learn some things about Reid, his school and the Buckley family. Reid had called me beforehand, as I later learned he did with all first-time students. I was, let’s say, too busy to call him back.

I wished I had. By the time I got into my rental car, I knew enough to be a little anxious. Honestly, I stopped along the way more than necessary and even drove by the school a couple of times before parking the car. I was a few minutes late. But I’ll never forget Reid’s huge smile as he strode across the room to shake my hand and welcome me.

The next few days literally made me dizzy. I was immersed in the subject matter in ways I had only experienced a few times in my life. I left humbled and oh so immensely respectful of the spoken word and with it, aggressive yet healthy debate. I was also energized and alive in new and inspiring ways.

I returned at least three times for the Disciplined Thinking Seminar as well as for several other events. I learned from other teachers and other students as well, all of whom I wish I could be so fortunate as to emulate.

To this day, the warmest feeling I get is when after delivering a speech or making a presentation I’m approached by someone I respect and they praise my style, delivery and persuasion. To myself, I say “God bless you, Reid, and thank you to The Buckley School.”


If you’ve got a story or memory to share, we’d love to hear from you, too! (And we’d love to hear from you if you don’t have a story, because it’s always nice to catch up.)

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